Grant Williams promised no easy looks for Kevin Durant, and he meant it

Forsberg: Grant Williams followed through with Kevin Durant promise originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Near the start of the Boston Celtics’ first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets, Grant Williams pledged to make everything tough on Kevin Durant, emphasizing his point by playfully suggesting the Celtics would hound Durant even when he was trying to get a cup of water .

Turns out Williams wasn’t joking.

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One of the more memorable moments from Boston’s four-game sweep of Brooklyn happened in the fourth quarter of Game 4 when, after the Nets called timeout with under 5 minutes to play, Williams stay attached to Durant’s hip as he tried to get off an after -the-whistle shot.

“You gotta follow through on what you say, right?” Williams told NBC Sports Boston after Boston’s practice on Wednesday.

“It was just about not letting him get an easy look off. It’s late in the game, he hadn’t really gotten an open look most of the night, other than probably that wide-open 3 he had. So, for me, it was just like, alright, I might as well not let him see the ball go in.”

Williams said he took one step towards the Boston bench but realized there was no one near the hoop to goaltend any shot attempt — something Kevin Garnett made famous during his playing days. Williams rushed back to Durant’s side and prevented him from unloading a pull-up 3.

Referee Scott Foster rushed over to break up the post-whistle shenanigans but Durant became hellbent on getting off his shot and Williams wasn’t going to let it happen without him seeing a hand in his face.

“Scott tried to stop me and I was like, ‘Yeah, you can stop me, but I’m still gonna get a contest off,'” said Williams.

Williams put both hands skyward as Durant fired off a quick jumper then glared in Williams’ direction as he finally retreated to Boston’s bench at the other end of the court.

Scott (Foster) tried to stop me and I was like, ‘Yeah, you can stop me, but I’m still gonna get a contest off. Had to make it seem like every shot he took was contested.

Grant Williams on defending KD after the whistle

Beyond only Jayson Tatum, Williams spent the most time on Durant in the series, accounting for 13 minutes of matchup time and allowing 18 points on 6-of-20 shooting with five turnovers created and three blocked shots.

Tatum limited Durant to 12 points on 3-of-18 shooting over 30:23 of matchup time and also created 12 turnovers.

“From the start of the series, honestly, that’s how I felt — make everything tough,” said Williams. “The funniest line that KD always says is like, ‘We’re playing football out here.’ That’s the most he’ll ever say.

“He’s a guy that wants to compete with anyone. So he never takes any job lightly, he never complains or anything like that. He’s just a guy that wants to win and wants to battle.”

Nets players shot just 42.9 percent when defended by Williams during the four-game series. That was the second-best mark on the Celtics behind only Tatum (opponents shooting 41.9 percent). Williams held opponents to 7.1 percent below their expected output. Most notably, the Nets shot 8.8 percent lower than expected on all 2-point shots with Williams holding opponents to 32.4 percent on all shots beyond 15 feet.

Opponents still seem surprised whenever Williams is able to slide his feet and deny smaller players’ desire to drive. He can use his strength to joust with bigs who have a size advantage. In addition to his efforts against Durant, Williams did a solid job against Kyrie Irving (5-of-14 shooting) and Bruce Brown (1-of-7 shooting).

Having players like Durant and Irving seek him out after the final buzzer of Game 4 to praise his efforts was the ultimate reward for Williams.

“Honestly, I’m just worried about my peers … I don’t really worry about accolades, I’m not a big individual-minded guy,” Williams said. me, I’m fine. So if I get a nod from KD or a nod from anybody after the game, saying a good job, then that makes me feel better than anything else.

“Ky, [Durant], all those guys kind of showed their respect. And I really appreciate that, especially from guys like that, who have been in this league for a long time.”

Williams likewise earned the praise of teammates who loved the way he put himself in Durant’s pocket. And his versatility gives Boston great confidence that Williams will have a big impact regardless of whether it’s the Bucks or Bulls in Round 2.

“That’s one of the things that’s made our defense become one of the better defenses in the league. Being able to adjust, to understand how we want to guard different guys,” said Al Horford. “But also the versatility on that end — from Grant, I’m pointing him out, just his ability to be able to guard small guys, big guys, just all over the place. His presence was huge for us in this past series and down the line all of our guys took that challenge. It’s something that’s made the biggest difference for our group, and that’s why I feel we can adjust to any style we need to.”

Williams said he’s ready for whatever challenge the next round poses. He’s ready to hound DeMar DeRozan in the midrange or joust with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bobby Portis on Milwaukee’s frontline.

With Milwaukee looking to close out the series tonight, it’s easy to peek ahead and wonder how Williams might be able to help against someone like Antetokounmpo. During the 2021-22 regular season, Williams logged a team-high 10:15 of matchup time and limited the former MVP to 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting with a turnover and a block.

Williams wasn’t just an offensive menace, he had big offensive outputs in Game 2 and 4 against the Nets. His late first-quarter offense in Game 2 prevented that game from getting out of hand early and Williams punished the Nets whenever they left him open in Game 4.

After his fourth 3-pointer of the night, Williams went full Tatum and blew a kiss to the sky. He’s still workshopping a signature celebration of his own.

“I don’t normally celebrate my 3s but, for me, it was the fourth one, fourth quarter, and Jayson threw it to me. I was like, ‘I might as well,’” said Williams.”I need a signature. I was thinking about doing a salute but I don’t know if that’s taken or not.”

In the aftermath of the Nets series, it’s everyone else saluting Williams.

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